How do I help my depressed daughter?

By Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

From my daughter’s late teens she has experienced episodes of depression. She was abused physically and verbally from her faher who is and was an alcoholic. She is now in her late thirties and abuses herself, she has always had problems with personal relationships and lashes out at her family.

Currently she is seeing a therapist. She has told me lately that sometimes she sees herself being killed in the most horrible ways, she describes seeing herself mutilated and dead and bleeding. She seems to be terribly depressed, at different times in the past she has talked about suicide and she lately has talked about it saying that everyone would be better off without her.

She generally gets jobs and doesn’t hold them very long. She has said in the past that she has had hallucinations as well. She also stated to me the other day that her mind races and she knows she thinks terrible abnormal thoughts. I am so worried about her and her family. I am worried for my 2 year old grandchild as well. Could you give me some idea what she is possibly dealing with. At times we have a very rocky relationship as she sees me as her best ally at times and sometimes her worst enemy. I am going to see a mental health counselor next week to get some help for myself.

A: I am so, so glad that you have contacted a counselor. You need some support and also some practical help for this situation. Please tell her everything that you’ve told me. She will know how to best protect the most vulnerable person in this situation, your granddaughter, and will help you decide how to be supportive of your daughter while taking care of yourself.

It’s possible that there is a psychotic dimension to your daughter’s depression. It’s also possible that birthing a child made things worse for her. (Postpartum depression sometimes does show up as late as 2 years following the birth of a child.) When people talk about suicide, they are in desperate need of help and need immediate attention. When a small child is in the care of someone suicidal, it’s even more important to intervene.

Please consider calling her therapist to share what your daughter told you. Her therapist can’t give you any information. In fact, the therapist can’t even confirm that your daughter is his or her patient due to the rules of confidentiality. But the therapist can listen and can tell your daughter that you are concerned. This gives the therapist an opening to talk about her suicidal feelings. Your daughter will probably be angry that you got involved but better to deal with her anger than to live with regrets. This is one of those times when she may see you as her worst enemy for doing the things that will save her life.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 24 Aug 2007

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2007). How do I help my depressed daughter?. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 23, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2007/08/24/how-do-i-help-my-depressed-daughter/